Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Momentary Distractions

Every day, I try to do a small, emotionally driven sketch. Usually, they have no apparent relationship to whatever larger painting I'm working on. I just do them to keep my hand loose, my imagination more easily accessible. I don't plan them or think them through; I just draw, paint, sew or glue until something is done.
I refer back to these sketches from time to time. I often discover things in them that I can use in larger works, such as the Dangerous Career Babes series: a colour combination, a perspective, a texture, a play on shapes. Sometimes they alert me to a recurring theme or idea I've overlooked, which, if developed, might make all my work stronger.
They're also a way of clearing my mind. After finishing one, I'm refreshed, more alert to possibilities.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hard Work

I've been fed up with everybody and everything this week. I've had to stand up for myself in countless small, annoying ways – with real estate agents, mobile 'phone companies, internet service providers, credit card service centers, and shop assistants. I want to hide out for a while.
It's a relief to be at home, drawing, with the music jammed up loud. The music is always rap. Rap was the soundtrack of my soul half a decade ago and now, when I'm down or when I feel at odds with the world, it reassures and inspires me. Rap is fighting music: uplifting, proactive, aggressive, hard.
Which is good for my work. It gets me so I don't give a toss what anyone thinks. I just do whatever the hell I want.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I had a weird, awful conversation with a so-called art collector recently.
I didn't know him. He emailed me, expressed interest in acquiring one of my works, and asked me to call. Usually, I don't do that, I prefer to correspond with people first before speaking with them. Don't ask me why I did it this time but I regretted it.
He began our conversation by complimenting me on my 'hand'. I assumed he was referring to my recent works using pencil and watercolour but he went on to tell me that he only liked my hard-edged paintings. These have no trace of a hand – mine or anyone else's – because they're intended to look machine-made, with stylised blocks of colour and unnervingly even line work. I guess complimenting an artist on their hand was a phrase he picked up from a commercial gallerist somewhere but didn't really know what it meant.
Then he told me, "I don't like your – what would you call it? – pornographic work. I suppose it's not very popular is it?" . I thought he was talking about my recent, sexually explicit series of watercolours, Kelly, The First Time, then I realised he was referring to the Venus In Hell series I exhibited in Melbourne, last year. I wouldn't call either series pornographic. Obviously, the guy had read neither my interview about them in NY Arts Magazine nor the review by respected art critic, Ashley Crawford, which notes, "With her earlier work, one wondered whether she could in fact draw. Venus in Hell removes all doubt." As for 'popularity', both series sold out within a week of being exhibited.
His next remark made me realise why he preferred my earlier work – he had seen it more. "I like it when I see an artist's work, and bam! I recognise it right away," he said. "That's what I like."
Of course, he went on to assure me, "I only collect art because I love it, not because of the resale value." Yeah, yeah. Whether they are honest about it or not, the reason most collectors buy an easily recognisable art work is that it's easy to sell. Their economic and social peers can also identify it as 'valuable' – a high-end consumer product, like an Italian sports car. In other words, to like an artist's work because it is recognisable has nothing at all to do with art and everything to do with 'brand recognition'.
Once, the tired cliché offered by an uninformed collector was, "I don't know art, but I know what I like." Nowadays, in our over-heated, hyper-acquisitive consumer culture this has beeen dumbed down even more: "I don't know art, but I know what I like when I recognise it."
As the collector himself told me, "Think of a well known Australian artist, and I'll have one of their works".
I don't know why I persisted in being polite during this conversation, especially in the face of bizarre attempts first to impress me then to put me down. I guess I was caught off-guard. Thankfully, my regular collectors are far more sophisticated. When he tried to argue a lower price for my work, inaccurately citing a recent auction house result, I lost my patience. Yes, my work is expensive but over the past 10 years it has increased in price over 1,000 per cent. As another, smarter collector wrote to me, "It is a lot of money but I understand the price is driven by the market."
The guy asked to visit my studio twice during the conversation. As if. I told him I had no stock to show him. And anyway, only my closest friends and most constant collectors are invited here. I know other artists have open studios. I don't. My studio is private, a place of intense creativity not commerce.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Get A Piece Of Me

For the third time in the past two years, I am offering a free, unlimited edition print of one of my small, monochromatic works. This one is titled An Outline Of Kelly, Later (watercolour, lead pencil on cold pressed paper, 12cm x 19cm), and was derived from the earliest sketches for a series of six watercolours, Kelly, The First Time, exhibited at Art Melbourne's Renault New Generation Art, this year.
As before, the work can be viewed and downloaded free from my web site under a
Creative Commons license. It can then be reproduced for non-commercial purposes in any medium. If you'd like me to sign it, you have only to send the work with a self-addressed, stamped (with adequate postage) envelope to my studio address (which I'll provide if you email me at dooneystudio@gol.com).
The last time I did this, it caused a lot of ill-tempered discussion among artists and dealers who felt I was devaluing art by distributing it without cost or any intermediary control (read, gallery) to 'the masses'.
My response was pretty predictable: fuck 'em!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Word Wars

Lots of people write to me, every day.
Complete strangers offer beautiful comments (sometimes in languages I don't understand) and their words are like precious gifts: "Bonjour. Je suis française. Je viens de découvrir tes créations. Je suis complètement subjuguée. Merci..."
Students write, too, posing questions for assignments. If they're interesting or challenging, I answer in detail. Sometimes, they say thank you, Mostly, they don't. Too many are ill-prepared – maybe they're hoping I'll do all their work for them – so I just direct them to my web site or this blog. My time is valuable and in short supply. I refuse to waste it encouraging a stranger not to think for themselves.
People write to seek permission to use my images for commercial purposes. Often, I say yes. I ask only for an acknowledgement. I vet every proposal. If I don't think it's appropriate, I decline politely and thank whoever it is for considering my work. Most take it well, understanding that if you ask for something, anything, a negative answer is always an even bet.
Some throw little tantrums. They fire back snide put downs of the work they've requested to use – and of me. They remind me of those fucked-up, oppressive men who ask a woman out then, if she demurs, heap abuse on her. I'm rarely offended. It's just a vain, stupid, self-defeating pitch to regain some power they think they've lost – go figure! All it really does is reassure me that I was right. Any other emails they send get junked by my assistant so I don't even have to read them.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Higher Studies

I'm surprised by the amount of interest there has been, this past year, in the material I create in advance of a painting. I find it hard to think of any of it as 'work', although my studies in acrylic on paper are almost as well executed as the final, large paintings in enamel on canvas or board. During the past couple of years, I have sold nearly all my early studies to galleries and private collectors, for prices ranging from $2,500 to $4,800.
After several enquiries from collectors, I also began selling my Polaroid 'sketches'. The first half a dozen were sold at my Venus In Hell show at MARS Gallery in Melbourne, in 2006, for around $350 each. Since then, I've sold maybe 30 more and prices have doubled. I don't really think of myself as a photographer but I'm pleased that these clumsy, comic, and sometimes downright embarrassing self-portraits appeal to people. Then again, maybe they just need a little light relief on their walls.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Reasons To Shoot Myself

I used to photograph myself a lot.
Crude Polaroids were always the first step in the preparatory phase of my early paintings. I used them to work out compositions that would best translate into strong, simple shapes and flat planes of colour. I also sketched myself, using a mirror, but photographs allowed me to examine myself from angles impossible to see in reflection. They helped me capture unusual perspectives or awkward poses (many of which I couldn't hold for more than a few seconds).
I was both artist and muse. The few times I used someone else as a model, the results were useless. My process was ruthlessly forensic and tedious. Those subjected to it found it difficult – stripped of any personality or dignity, they occasionally felt exploited. Photographing myself allowed me to push the boundaries as far as I could without worrying about another's discomfort. Over time, I began to explore – again, in a detached, forensic way – what it meant to exploit oneself.
There's a comic, self-mocking element to my early Polaroids. I often donned costumes or props – cowboy hats, roller skates, singlets wet with water. A pair of pink, slightly see-through underpants evolved, unintentionally, into a psycho-sexual constant in more than one series of paintings over the past decade.
I cared less about the backgrounds. I used wherever I happened to be staying or working at the time, and paid little attention to what was in them.
As a result, my study images now form an unexpected, journal-like narrative – or autopsy – of my early personal life and work. With time, they've turned out to be much more self-revelatory than I'd ever intended.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hot Press

One of my favorite early paintings, Dolores Haze (enamel on canvas, 1.0 metres by 1.5 metres), is the backdrop for an up-and-coming Australian art consultant's portrait (and profile) in today's Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Group Think

The first painting that really blew me away was Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2. It made me realise that art could be exciting and intellectually engaging as well as beautiful.
Duchamp first submitted the painting to the
Salon Des Indépendants. A jurist, Albert Gleizes, asked Duchamp's brothers to have him withdraw it or paint over the title that he had painted on the work or rename it. They approached Duchamp with Gleizes request but he refused. He recalled, later, "I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that".